Government Accountability

Back-room deals and closed doors are not the stuff of free governments. Our work is making governments more transparent and accountable to citizens.

<p>Back-room deals and closed doors are not the stuff of free governments. Our work is making governments more transparent and accountable to citizens.</p>

PHOENIX -- Tucson continues to spend more public money on state lobbyists than the larger city of Phoenix at least on paper.

Tucson spent $239,880 on lobbyists and gifts to lawmakers in 2006, a drop from the $275,585 it spent in 2005, according to the most recent numbers reported by the Arizona Secretary of State's Office.

City officials say the money is paying off in the form of favorable legislation and a larger share of state revenue for things like Downtown redevelopment and transportation.

East Valley school districts are spending tens of thousands of dollars to lobby the Legislature this year, in hope the lawmakers will send more of the state's precious funding their way. The Mesa Unified School District, the state's largest district, has budgeted up to $45,000 to spend on lobbying by Jaime Molera, a former state superintendent of public instruction. The district hired Molera, in part, to work with lawmakers on issues related to Career Ladder, a performance pay plan that is a large piece of how the district pays its teachers, he said.

A forum on direct wine shipping Tuesday at the Goldwater Institute in Phoenix was anything but a dry recitation of policy.

After a panel discussion, several supporters of direct shipment delivered animated comments and grievances to panelist Karen Gravois of the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America, the only speaker not in favor of direct shipping.

"How do you justify the economic discrimination between what's available in state and what's available out of state?" asked Larry Winer of the Arizona State University law school.

En 1980, el doctor Jose Piñera elaboró un plan de ahorro y pensión para los trabajadores en Chile. Hoy, después de más de dos décadas, su proyecto, conocido comúnmente como el "sistema de la libretita", se ha establecido en 15 países y más de 60 millones de trabajadores se benefician de él.

En reconocimiento a su constante lucha por el bienestar del trabajador, el doctor Piñera recibió el premio "Goldwater Award" que cada año otorga el Instituto Goldwater de Arizona.

Corporation Commissioner Jim Irvin is in the hot seat with the threat of impeachment in the air, but lawmakers are missing the opportunity to address the root of the problem - the commission itself.

While Irvin stands accused of interfering with a Valley utility company acquisition, the commission regularly impedes commerce, maintains monopolies and doles out protective subsidies to favored groups at the expense of Arizona residents.

Of course, the commission's operations are all legal under the Arizona Constitution.

Divided government will be the name of the game when Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano and the Republican-controlled State Legislature start the 2003 session Jan. 13.

The business community also faces some divisions as industry and interest groups take different tacks on mammoth issues such as taxes, economic development and how to deal with the state's $1 billion budget shortfall.

Movie director Peter Jackson began his Lord of the Rings saga with an ominous message: The world is changed. I feel it in the water. I feel it in the earth. I smell it in the air, Cate Blanchett darkly says. Much that once was is lost.

We have the same sense of foreboding when considering Arizona's unresolved budget crisis, without the Hollywood ending. Arizona has been fortunate to have a vibrant economy and falling poverty rates, but a series of bad policy decisions now puts this at risk.

Scottsdale's Motor Mile just may be one of the most profitable corners of real estate in Arizona. Featuring luxury cars such as Bentley and Rolls-Royce, its a safe bet most Arizonans probably will spend more time dreaming about cars like these than driving them. So why are taxpayers footing bills for these dealerships? A few years ago, the Scottsdale City Council voted to give $1.5 million to 19 car dealers for an ad campaign to make the area the ultimate car buying destination. I guess 19 car dealerships weren't obvious enough.

This year a ballot initiative is moving to establish a minimum wage in Arizona. The wage would initially be $5.95 an hour and would rise to $6.75 an hour in 2008.

Arizona currently has no state-required minimum wage, but employers are required to comply with the federal minimum wage of $5.15.

It's a safe assumption that most Americans want to reduce poverty and give all workers a chance at the American dream. But a higher minimum wage tends to put the lesser skilled among us out of work.